She had him at hello. That was the problem.
After Caroline*, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty member, greeted a random UNL employee in early November 2013, the UNL employee found her office and began to visit.
He would leave notes to tell her he missed her and stop by just to talk to her. When she told him to stop visiting, he kissed her head and told her, “You sure know how to break a guy’s heart.”
But she said she decided she could no longer tolerate his actions after he was waiting for her after lunch one day, demanding to talk to her.
That was her breaking point.
She and her supervisor called the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department in December 2013, and he stopped visiting her because he was transferred to the other campus. But the two met again shortly after the beginning of the fall 2014 semester when Caroline received a new position and needed to transfer campuses.
Caroline called UNLPD again to alert them of his presence and waited for them to take action.
Caroline said her colleagues had to babysit and walk her everywhere, such as to her car or to her office. She said she decided to file a harassment protection order against the employee through Lancaster County because she felt disappointed with how UNLPD handled her case. But, overall, she said she believes the Title IX system, the federal statute that tells universities how to handle incidents such as stalking, should be improved in its entirety.
“I just felt like I was the one being punished versus him, and he was clearly in the wrong and didn’t understand it,” she said. “I don’t feel like he has or had any sort of remorse for what he did … there’s no learning moment for him. And I think that is probably the most frustrating spot.”
In her notes from the time period, she wrote that an officer told her UNLPD “dropped the ball” with her case and did not forward the case to shift officers or Title IX authorities. Caroline also said she felt like UNLPD didn’t understand the severity of her situation.
Interim chief of police at UNLPD, Hassan Ramzah, said he was not at UNLPD during the time period of Caroline’s case and cannot speak to the specific situation. But he said police officers should approach the complainant of sexual misconduct, or sexual assault cases in particular, with care and compassion.
“We have to be cognizant of the victim’s needs at that point in time,” Ramzah said. “The investigation process … we have to approach that with both care, compassion, being cognizant of the victim, the survivor and their ability to provide information.”
Ramzah said police officers always prioritize the safety of the survivor and will provide resources and proper medical aid if necessary. He also said they approach the case based on the survivor’s state of mind.
“We work with them in terms of what their desire is … we do our investigation, but we follow the victim’s wishes in terms of how they’d like to proceed,” he said.
After an officer completes the report, Ramzah said the report is reviewed by the shift supervisor who will then complete the process so an electronic notification is sent to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance.
Ramzah said he is unaware of any changes to UNLPD’s process to notify Title IX of reports, but believes it is important to have a working relationship with Title IX investigators at UNL.
In Caroline’s case, Title IX determined the UNL employee “more than likely” violated university policy, according to the letter she received from UNL. But Caroline said she felt the protection order was necessary.
“I’m going to start doing my stuff to make myself feel safe because I don’t feel like there were a lot of people at the university that were taking it seriously,” she said. “Not that it’s their job to take sides, but I do think that providing a safe work environment is their job.”
Because of the protection order, the respondent left UNL. Caroline said she is unsure of whether he was fired or quit his job.
Five years later, she has not seen the respondent, but said the incidents partially made her more aware of her surroundings.
She is still the type of person who will say hello to strangers on campus and help students to the best of her ability. The incident did not change her outgoing personality.
Although she does not think about this situation often, she said she thinks Title IX is a problem across the country — not just at UNL. But she hopes UNL steps forward to develop a process that acknowledges the pain of the people they’re talking to.
“It’s a hard job; I would not be the first to volunteer for a job like that,” Caroline said. “But I also feel like we can create safe spaces and have actions that are more timely than we’re providing. So, I don’t think UNL is isolated in some of these instances, but that doesn’t give us an excuse to not be better.”
*Because of safety concerns, some of the survivors The Daily Nebraskan interviewed chose not to be named. The pseudonyms of these individuals are noted with an asterisk on first reference. Names with double asterisks indicate the survivor chose to use their first name but to not disclose their last name.
Editors’ Note: If you or someone you know has had an experience with the Title IX office you’d like to share with The Daily Nebraskan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is part of a Title IX series. Click here for a table of contents.